Before beginning a garment project, taking correct measurements of the body and transferring those figures to a commercial pattern (or using them to draft a pattern of your own) should be your first priority. Accurate measurements are vital since a quarter inch added or subtracted on one part of a pattern piece could end up adding or subtracting up to one inch on the over-all garment. Keep in mind that each garment is comprised of a left and right side for both the front and the back so you will generally be adding or subtracting one forth of the amounts required when altering the pattern. The illustrations and measuring instructions seen here are sufficient for altering patterns. However, drafting a pattern is more complicated and utilizes more measurements.
Here’s what you need to get started:
A tape measure that won’t stretch
One quarter inch twill tape or elastic for tying around the body to facilitate accuracy
Writing materials to record numbers
Ease is the next factor to consider. A certain amount of ease for movement is built into each pattern. This is called “wearing ease.” The extra amount added to accommodate a particular style is called “design ease” and could result in choosing a smaller or larger size pattern.
Woven fabrics such as cottons, linens, silks and tightly woven wools have little or no give and require more wearing ease than knits. Certain rules of thumb apply and are listed below.
On garments with a natural waistline seam, one quarter inch is added to the neck to waist measurement. This allows a little more freedom of movement when the arms are raised and also eliminates that “short-waisted” appearance common to this style.
Taking accurate measurements generally requires an assistant so having a sewing buddy to call on can be helpful and fun.